Three Parts:Stocking Your KitchenGrinding Your GoodiesUsing and Storing Your FlourCommunity Q&A
Many people may not understand the making flour is a simple process that has been done for thousands of years in a number of different civilizations. The truth of the matter is that you can make it yourself in seconds. Why use that processed flour that’s been losing vitamins for weeks on the shelves when you can get fresh flour now? All you need is some sort of grain that can be used as a flour, and a grinding apparatus (such as a coffee grinder or a coffee mill.
Any type of grain, nut, or bean that can be ground (wheat, barley, oats, rye, quinoa, corn, rice, peas, garbanzo, etc.)
Part 1 Stocking Your Kitchen
- Obtain your grains, seeds, nuts, beans...something to grind to a pulp.
Practically any grain, nut, or seed can be turned into flour. Try exotic items such as quinoa, popcorn, acorns, and peas to the more traditional options like rice, wheat, oats, and barley. Fresh, whole wheat berries, rye berries, whole oats and the like can often be found at health food stores, sold in bulk. They’ll be white, russet, purple or amber-colored.
And it’s cheaper by volume than the pre-made stuff, too!
- Know what kind of flour you want to make. Want whole wheat flour? Get whole wheat berries (they don’t look like berries — that’s just what they’re called). Want rye flour? Get rye berries. Flour ain’t no rocket science!
- If you’re going for wheat flour, know what’s best for your cooking needs.
Each kind lends itself to a different use. Spelt, Emmer and Einkorn grains are on the comeback and are healthy versions of wheat, too. For yeast breads, hard red (winter or spring) wheat is best.
- For breads that don’t need yeast (like muffins, pancakes, and waffles), soft white is the standard choice. Spelt, kamut, and triticale work, too.
- Choose your grinding mechanism.
If you’d like to spend hours cranking for your daily forearm workout, you’re more than welcome. Or you could throw the seeds/berries/nuts/beans in your blender/food processor/coffee grinder and let it do the work for you. If you do use some sort of electric device, the higher powered it is, the finer your flour will be.
- The manual mill really has one advantage: It doesn’t produce any heat to damage the nutrients of the seeds. Other than that, it just takes a lot of time.
- The main drawback of electric mills is that they’re just mills and they’re a bit expensive (your cheapest one is going to run at about a couple hundred bucks).
- The only downside of using a blender/food processor/coffee grinder is that it may not get you the finest quality of powder (“finest” here meaning like small, not of good quality). It all depends on the specific product you’re using.
Part 2 Grinding Your Goodies
- Place the good stuff into your mill/blender.
Make the amount you plan to use right now — fresh flour can go bad very quickly. Fill the mechanism only about halfway full so there’s room for it to blend away.
- 1 cup of wheat berries should produce just over 1 1/2 cups of flour. For beans and nuts, etc., the same to 1.5x the original amount will be produced.
- Grind away.
If you’re using a mill, turn the crank until all of the grain has been processed through it. If you’re using a blender, select the highest setting to blend the grain for about 30 seconds. Then turn it off, remove the lid, and stir with a rubber spatula. After stirring, place the lid back on and blend some more.
- Your mechanism determines how fast the stuff will grind. If you’re using one of those fancy schmancy high-powered blenders (like Blendtec or Vitamix), your flour will be done before you can say, “Is the flour done yet?” If you’re grinding manually, well, hope you took the afternoon off work.
- Continue to crank your mill or blend your grains until the flour reaches the texture you want.
You can check on this by sifting the mixture you have into a bowl and surveying it up close. Touch it to make sure it has the right consistency (wash your hands thoroughly first!) and if it doesn’t, run it again.
- Your coffee grinder will never get the flour to a processed-flour-like consistency. What you may have to do is take the flour through a sifter to get out the chunkier bits and make do with what’s left over. It’ll still be delicious!
Part 3 Using and Storing Your Flour
- Once you’re satisfied with your flour, pour it into a resealable bag or container.
You may have to use more than one if you’ve made a lot of flour, but keeping it fresh will definitely pay off in the long-term. And there you have it: ready-made flour for the dough of your dreams!
- Keep your flour in a cool, dark place. This will prevent insects and sunlight from doing irreparable damage. If you’d like, place a bay leaf in with the flour to prevent bugs from bugging your flour.
- If making bulk amounts, keep it in the fridge or freezer.
Whole wheat flour will go rancid especially fast, clocking in at only a few months: if put in a cabinet. If it changes color or smells bad (which it won’t do when kept cold), don’t hesitate to throw it away.
- To freeze the flour, just put it in its resealable container and chuck ‘er in. It’ll keep for years. Just don’t forget to use it occasionally!
- Experiment with your flour first.
You may find that your homemade flour has a much different taste than you expected and acts quite differently when cooked (that’s because it’s super fresh). So don’t use it straight away if you’re looking for a gold medal at the fair. Experiment first.
- Fresh flour gives the yeast more to feed on, resulting in more fermentation activity. This can change the tastes of recipes you have been baking for years. It should definitely change it for the better!
Add New Question
How do I make bread flour from all purpose flour?
To make bread flour from all purpose flour, simply add 1 teaspoon of wheat gluten for each cup of flour. Combine the flour and wheat gluten well. If you don’t plan on using it right away, store it in an airtight container.
How long does it take the flour to go bad?
In a cupboard, a month. In a freezer, a year. (Only applies to airtight containers.)
Can I make flour out of rice?
Where can I purchase wheat gluten?
Wheat gluten is sold in many grocery stores. It might not be called wheat powder or gluten, though. It is most commonly named “vital wheat gluten”, so be on the lookout!
Can I use the flour immediately to make cookies?
Yes, you can use the flour to make cookies as soon as you’ve finished preparing it.
What is wheat gluten?
Wheat gluten, wheat meat, gluten meat, or simply gluten, is a food made from gluten, the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass which is then cooked before being eaten.
I hate grains. Can I make flour out of tomatoes or other fruits?
No, flour must be starchy. Beans, nuts, peas, and seeds (such as quinoa) are also listed above. Roots like potato and tapioca are also found in many commercial products. Check out gluten-free bread and cereal ingredient lists the next time you’re in the grocery store for ideas and combinations used successfully. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour contains: garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour. Every flour has its own unique properties. You will need to make some adjustments if you want to substitute it in a recipe that calls for a specific type of flour, like ‘all purpose flour.’
How to remove the dark skin from Almonds to make almond butter?
How do I make flour from breadfruit?
Can canned beans be substituted for flour in recipes?
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- Adding a teaspoon of lemon juice for every two cups of grain will help make the flour rise better.
- If you’re not achieving the desired consistency from your mill, try using your blender too to see if it makes a difference. Even though a hand mill’s intended purpose is to grind up grains to make flour, a blender can sometimes get the job done more effectively.
- Note that different types of grains contain different nutrients. Do some research before picking out the one(s) you want to put in your flour.
- Wheat flour is extremely flammable. Never have flour out near an open flame!
- Like other crops, grains can be prone to contaminants and natural toxins, so wash them well before consuming.
Things You’ll Need
Some type of grinding apparatus (flour mill/food processor/blender/coffee grinder)
Rubber spatula (optional)
Container(s) for freezing
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To be totally honest here, I really didn’t know what all the fuss was about regarding flours. In the beginning of becoming unprocessed I just avoided ‘white’ products. But I avoided them with just with the basic understanding they weren’t the best choices. I had heard whole grain or whole wheat was better. But what I DIDN’T know was how truly harmful they actually were to me and my family!
I decided to do a little research into this subject and with all the different types of flours out there it’s no wonder people get confused.
- refined white flour
- cake flour
- self rising flours
- white whole wheat flour
Add to it:
- whole wheat
The list seems endless! Well today’s post is designed to help break down some of the confusion and educate you on what you should be looking for and what you should be avoiding.
Q – What are the different types of flours?
Let’s start with the one most familiar to everyone. The all purpose white flour. All Purpose flour is most commonly used in making cookies, cakes, muffins, and biscuits.
This type of flour comes bleached and unbleached.
- Unbleached flour is flour that is bleached naturally
- Bleached flour has been chemically treated
So let’s break this down… white flour is made from whole wheat grains. A whole grain of wheat has three layers.
- The Bran
- The Germ
- The Endosperm
The bran is where you’ll find most of the fiber.
The germ is the nutrient dense embryo that will sprout into a new wheat plant.
And the endosperm is the largest part of the grain.
White flour is made from the endosperm only. Old stone mills used to grind flour slowly, but today’s methods are mass produced and much faster. Even most of your whole wheat flour has lost a lot of nutrients due to this type of processing. They start by peeling off the husk and bran and crushing the grain. The husk and bran are the most nutritious parts. Refining food destroys nutrients. What’s remaining are pure carbohydrates or a form of sugar. For a more in depth look at the history of bleaching flour and Pilsbury visit Mercola’s site for a nice review. But for now we’ll move on.
Q – So how does the flour become bleached?
Bleached flour, as you may have guessed, is whiter than the unbleached flour. But how did it get that way? Well when flour is chemically bleached, it is similar to bleaching your clothes in the laundry!!! Flour bleaching agents are a food additive added to flour in order to make it appear whiter (source Wikipedia). A few of these toxic chemical bleaching agents used are:
- Azodicarbonamide *
- Chlorine Dioxide
- Nitrogen Dioxide
- Potassium Bromate
Use of chlorine bromates and peroxides is not allowed in the European Union!
In Australia and Europe the use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive is not approved! (Source: Wikipedia.org) *The United States permits the use of azodicarbonamide at levels up to 45 parts per million (ppm). If other countries have seen the dangers in these toxic chemicals and banned them from use why won’t the United States follow suit?? This brings us to bromated flour …
Q – What is bromated flour?
Besides bleaching the flour another process is called bromating. Bromated flour is a flour that has been treated with potassium bromate to improve the doughs elasticity and produce a higher rise. Nearly all the flour in your supermarket has been bromated. Commercial bakers use it for it’s dependable rise. Home bakers use it for the same reasons. The substance, in theory, is supposed to bake out as it cooks, but if any remains behind it can be very harmful. Did you know bromate is considered a category 2B carcinogen (possibly carcinogenic to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)? According to Wikipedia, bromate in drinking water is undesirable because it is a suspected human carcinogen. And as a matter of fact, its presence in Coca Cola’s Dansani bottled water forced an embarrassing recall of their water in the UK (click here to read that story)!
Bromate has been banned in most developed countries since 1994, including the UK and Canada! In addition, in 1991, California declared bromate a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65. Baked goods sold in California would have to bear a store level cancer warning if they contained more than a certain level of bromate. As a result, most California bakers have switched to bromate-free process. In the US bromated flour is legal, however labeling is NOT required, although some states may require flour producers to label the flour if it has been bromated.
Q – What should I look for?
When buying flour unbleached unbromated is the way to go. Be a label reader! Avoid products with white flour or “enriched” flour in the ingredients. That includes breads, cookies, biscuits, donuts, pie crusts, rolls. Eat whole wheat breads, rye breads. Even better are sprouted breads. Your best bet is to find a bakery that doesn’t use bromated flours. I found one within 5 miles of my house in our wonderful downtown area called Boule Artisan Bakery. I spent some time speaking with the owner Shawn about the old fashioned methods they use to make their bread. Their bread takes THREE DAYS to rise and it’s wonderful!!
Q- Where can I find non bromated flour?
Flour has to get shipped to the manufacturers who are using it, cereal companies and bread companies. And when this flour gets shipped it is difficult to avoid rodents, bugs, mice and rats. Well when shipping white flour no insecticides are used. Why? B/c white flour when consumed by these little critters kills them! White flour is a natural insecticide! So by the time the white flour reaches shore and is being transported to your favorite Kellogg’s cereal you can be assured it has had it’s fair share of many dead rodents in the bag. They died by eating the white flour!! How’s THAT for appetizing?
- International Agency for Research on Cancer
White flour is a big part of most people’s day, from bagels and sandwiches to pretzels and cookies. We love our white flour, but this popular ingredient isn’t good for our bodies. So to eat healthy food, must you give up all these tasty items?
Certainly not! Healthy flour options do exist, and with a little experimentation, you can even make your own healthy, delicious baked goods and other foods usually made with white flour.
Why White Flour is Bad
Marie C Fields/Shutterstock
Refined white flour has very few natural vitamins and minerals. The good-for-you qualities of the whole grain have been stripped away, but even worse, bad-for-you things have been added, such as preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. Even enriched white flour doesn’t contain all the healthy components of whole-grain flours, and it’s absorbed by the body as a starch, which means that it’s energy is used up quickly, rather than slowly and effectively.
White flour may not taste sweet, but it can lead to the same problems caused by eating too much refined sugar:
- An increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol
- An increased risk of some cancers and inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis
- An increased risk of fatty liver disease
- A suppressed immune system
- Fatigue, depression, anxiety, hypoglycemia and other health problems
Many studies demonstrate these concerns. For example, a study found that women who eat a lot of bad carbs, such as white flour, are two times as likely to develop heart disease.
If you want to know more, read our article about using flour in a healthy diet.
What to do When Eating Carbs
If you do eat carbs — say a slice of bread — eat it with a little protein and healthy fat. This way your body will digest the carbs more slowly, which is better for your body. Also eating vegetables along with the carbs is even better. Balanced meals and snacks are best.
Replacing Flour With Black Beans
Here’s an idea to try when baking: Swap out 1 cup of flour for 1 cup of blacks beans rinsed, cooked, drained and pureed. This replacement cuts some of the calories and adds protein, and works particularly well in brownies.
Healthy White Flour Alternatives
To make healthier recipes that call for flour, choose whole-grain or other better-for-you products. You can also find products made with whole grains. Here are some flour options, including gluten-free flours:
Whole wheat flour — be sure to choose whole wheat flour, not wheat flour.
White whole wheat flour is made with white wheat berries and is more mild-tasting than regular whole wheat.
Spelt flour has fewer calories than wheat and is higher in protein. When using spelt flour, you don’t want to over-mix it because it will break down.
Brown rice flour is especially good when combined with other flours, such as teff, buckwheat, or sorghum. It is gluten-free and has a slightly nutty flavor and can be used to thicken soups.
Coconut flour is gluten-free, high in fiber, low carb, and a good source of protein. Recipes will likely need more liquid when using coconut flour but will require less sugar (or other sweetener) because coconut has a natural sweetness to it. For advice on baking with coconut flour, read Everything to Know About Coconut Flour: The Grain-Free Superfood.
Soy flour is a gluten-free and grain-free flour that has more protein than white flour and adds a subtle, nutty flavor to recipes. Can be used to thicken recipes.
Millet flour is gluten-free and adds a subtle flavor and creamy color, plus added vitamins and minerals. It’s best used with a mix of other flours because it can be gritty.
Amaranth flour is high in protein and gluten-free
Arrowroot flour is gluten-free, flavorless, and good for thickening recipes.
Teff flour has more protein and more nutrients than wheat flour.
Buckwheat flour is made by grinding buckwheat groats, which are actually seeds and not grains, making it both gluten-free and grain-free!
Oat flour can be used in a 1:1 ratio in most baking recipes, but more liquid needs to be added. Read How to Make Oat Flour to make your own at home!
Rye flour is gluten-free, darker, and denser than most other types of flour.
Banana flour can replace any plain or self-rising flour. It has a nutty taste and is both gluten-free and grain-free. Read Why Grain-Free Flours Are the Next Hot Baking Trend to learn more.
Chickpea flour is gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, and high in protein. Read 7 Ways to Use Chickpea Flour in Holiday Meals: From Breakfast to Dessert to learn more about how to start using this bean-based flour.
Tapioca flour is made from cassava root, a starchy type of vegetable, making it gluten-free and grain-free. It adds a sweetness and chewiness to baking. It can also be used a thickener.
Almond flour is made from ground almonds, so it’s gluten-free and grain-free! It can be used in baking, raw desserts, breads, and to bulk up veggie burgers and falafel.
Pumpkin seed meal is gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, and can be used to thicken soups and to add a nutty flavor to recipes.
Sesame seed meal is a gluten-free, grain-free, and nut-free alternative to flour that is made from ground sesame seeds.
Sunflower seed meal is gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, and made from ground sunflower seeds.
Chia seed meal is made from ground chia seeds. When used in gluten-free baking, liquid levels and cooking time may need to be increased.
Flax seed meal is made from ground flax seeds and is one of the most popular binders in egg-free baking.
Hemp flour is made from ground hemp seeds and has a mild, nutty flavor.
Quinoa flour is gluten-free, grain-free, and one of the most nutritious flours but should not be used alone. It has a light, nutty flavor.
Corn starch is a flour-like substance made from wheat or corn. It is used as a thickening agent.
Xanthan gum is a complex carb that adds volume and viscosity in recipes, which usually comes from gluten. It is used as a thickener in salad dressings and other foods.
To get the most health benefits, use sprouted, whole-grain flours: Read why you should bake with sprouted-grain flour.
A Note on Using Almond Flour
Some people argue against using almond flour because it’s expensive and because too many omega-6s can be harmful, but if you’re using it in moderation, you should be fine. You might not always want to choose products made with almond flour and bake with it every time you make something. Sprouted almond flour is best.
Tips for Using Alternative Flours
When using white flour substitutes and gluten-free flours, you usually have to combine several flours to get the same or similar texture and taste. Here are some tips:
- When using whole wheat or other flours, sift the flour two or three times to incorporate air into for baking.
- Try adding a little bit of vital wheat gluten to alternative flours.
- Try adding 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder per cup of flour to lighten recipes.
- Adding a little more fat (preferably the healthy kind) to recipes can help keep the final product light, as in pancakes.
- After combining wet and dry ingredients, let the batter sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.
Do you know any other tips for baking with white-flour substitutes? Let us know in the comments.
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Lead image source: Raw Chocolate Caramel Pie
The Food and Drug Administration recently made a perhaps surprising recommendation: Don’t eat raw flour.
The warning issued last week came in response to an outbreak of E. coli that has sickened at least 42 people in 21 states since December. The FDA tracked the outbreak to a batch of General Mills flour sold under the brand names Gold Medal, Gold Medal Wondra and Signature Kitchens, triggering a recall.
Most people who read the recommendation probably already knew they weren’t supposed to eat cookie dough because of the raw eggs in it (though people donꞌt always do what theyꞌre supposed to do). But the flour recommendation was flummoxing, particularly because of the FDA’s explanation: Flour is a field food, the agency said in a June 28 consumer update. If pathogens get into the wheat plants while they are growing in a field — via wild animal waste, for example — they’ll stay in through the milling process.
That advice makes sense. Except that people eat lots of field foods raw. If raw flour is dangerous, what about a spinach salad or a bowl of fresh strawberries? Why hasn’t the FDA declared all raw foods a no-go?
Live Science spoke with an FDA expert and an outside food safety researcher who had the answers. Bottom line: Yes, salad can cause illness, and produce has been linked to many more outbreaks than flour. But the risk of illness from raw produce is better understood than the largely unquantified risk from grains. And fruits and vegetables are processed under the assumption that people will eat them raw, whereas flour isn’t.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly half of foodborne illnesses are caused by produce. So why raise the red flag over flour?
“We just want to provide consumers with the best information to take steps to reduce their risk,” said Jenny Scott, a senior adviser in the office of food safety at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The same thing happens when we have a produce outbreak.”
But the ways that people traditionally use flour did influence both the timing and the content of the recommendation. Typically, Scott told Live Science, people don’t eat raw flour in large quantities.
“Because people donꞌt think of raw flour as being a concern, that’s one of the reasons we’re making the effort to get the information out,” she said. The risk of illness from raw flour is low, she said, but then, so is the risk from raw produce.
The current flour-related outbreak is the second of two such outbreaks in the past seven years. The earlier one was a 2009 outbreak of another strain of E. coli caused by Nestlé Toll House prepackaged cookie dough, which — surprise, surprise — people were eating raw. Exhibiting a clear-eyed realism about human nature, Nestlé opted to start heat-treating all of the flour in its raw cookie dough.
Some recent changes in consumer behavior may explain the appearance of this newest flour-related outbreak, Scott said. Some pizzerias, for example, have started giving kids balls of raw dough to play with while they wait for their meals. But also, improvements in epidemiology now allow researchers to detect and track outbreaks that might have gone unnoticed in earlier years, she said.
“It happens once, you think, ‘Well, that’s a fluke, not really an issue,'” Scott said. “It happens twice, you start thinking, ‘Hmm, maybe there is something here.'”
Food safety experts are now aware of the flour risk, but are only beginning to understand it. Outbreaks related to produce have been studied intensively for two decades, starting with a massive outbreak of infection with the parasite Cyclospora in 1996 (it eventually was traced to raspberries imported from Guatemala). By comparison, there isn’t much data on the prevalence of pathogens in flour, said Ben Chapman, a professor of food safety at North Carolina State University.
“Over 20 years, we have a pretty good understanding, or a better understanding, of fresh produce consumption, but when it comes to flour, we don’t know,” Chapman told Live Science. “It’s hard to make risk-management decisions based on unknowns.”
No one really knows how General Mills’ flour became contaminated, or if contamination is a widespread problem among other brands. E. coli can spread through animal feces, so wildlife pooping in and around fields might be the culprit. But untreated irrigation water could spread the bacteria, too, Chapman said, or there could be some sort of cross-contamination during the milling process. No one knows how long E. coli or other pathogens persist in dry foods like flour, he said.
“It’s still relatively new for us to be looking at this as a community,” he said.
As for produce, which is currently responsible for far more outbreaks than raw flour, the FDA is making strides on safety. The agency recently released a new Produce Safety rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that requires specific water quality guidelines and testing for irrigation water, rules for manure and compost use, and standards related to worker hygiene and equipment and tools. Raw sprouts, the culprit in 42 outbreaks between 1996 and 2014, get special attention under the new rule.
Grains aren’t covered under the new Produce Safety rule, but both producers and regulators will likely be looking at ways to reduce the risk of contamination, Chapman and Scott said. Widespread heat-treatment of flour seems unlikely at this point due to the lack of infrastructure and technology to treat the grain supply, according to Scott.
But with huge grain-consuming companies like Nestlé and General Mills linked to outbreaks, producers will be examining their supply chains and processing practices, Chapman said.
“It’s bad business, being linked to outbreaks,” he said.
Original article on Live Science.